Abuse Claims Breathe Life into Dead Priests' Past
Lawsuit: Plaintiff Says Catholic Church Protected Men Who Molested Him
By Nicole Tsong
Anchorage Daily News
December 30, 2004
Rev. Segundo Llorente has been accused of molesting a boy in the 1950s.
A popular Jesuit priest -- the country's first Roman Catholic priest to serve in a state Legislature -- and his successor at a parish in Sheldon Point are accused in a lawsuit of separately molesting the same boy there beginning in the 1950s.
The plaintiff says in the civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in Bethel Superior Court that the Rev. Segundo Llorente molested him four times in 1956 and 1957, when he was 6 and 7 years old. He also accuses the Rev. Francis Nawn of abusing him at least five times when he was a teenager. Both men are deceased.
The plaintiff, who is identified in court papers as Jack Doe 1, seeks unspecified monetary damages from the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska Jesuits and the Jesuit province in Oregon, which is historically affiliated with the Fairbanks diocese. The lawsuit accuses the diocese and the Jesuits of knowing about the priests' sexual misconduct, of shifting them from parish to parish to conceal their activities and of "harboring them within the protective cloak of the church."
Ronnie Rosenberg, director of human resources for the Fairbanks diocese, said she has found no indication that anyone complained about Nawn or Llorente while they served the diocese.
"From what I can see of any records -- and I have been through just about every file in this building that would make sense to look at -- no, we were not aware of these sorts of allegations," she said.
The diocese and Jesuits have been battered by a series of lawsuits involving priests who served in Western Alaska. Twenty-eight men sued in November, saying a religious brother, Joseph Lundowski, molested them between 1965 and 1975 while Lundowski served in villages including Hooper Bay, Stebbins and St. Michael. The Rev. James Poole, a Jesuit, is accused of abusing female minors while serving as director of the Catholic radio station KNOM in Nome. Another Jesuit, the Rev. Jules Convert, was accused in a separate suit of molesting 18 boys in villages along the Yukon River.
Convert is also dead, and Lundowski is believed dead. Poole, who lives in a Jesuit home in Spokane, Wash., is contesting a lawsuit filed against him and the diocese last year. Poole has called the accusations against him "highly inflammatory and highly exaggerated."
The recent spate of lawsuits has been difficult for the diocese, Rosenberg said. She asked any possible victims to come forward.
"We urge anyone who has been abused to come forward, whether or not they're interested in pursuing a lawsuit, so we can get a handle on the scope of the problem and assist in healing in any way we possibly can," she said.
Bishop Donald Kettler told the Fairbanks News-Miner in a phone interview from South Dakota, where he is visiting family, that the church wants to find out what happened in Sheldon Point.
"I deeply regret this newest allegation, and as a diocese we will certainly work to find out the truth of the matter and try to cooperate with everyone involved," Kettler said.
Attorney Ken Roosa, who represents Jack Doe 1, said he believes there are other victims, based on what his client told him.
"I also know from training and experience that nobody goes out and commits one act of molestation," he said.
Roosa also represents plaintiffs in the other suits.
Llorente, who was born in Leon, Spain, in 1906, served in several former or current villages including Akulurak, Bethel, Alakanuk, Kwiguk, Imanok (Emmonak), New Knockhock and Sheldon Point, now known as Nunam Iqua. Llorente won election to the Alaska Legislature in a write-in vote over two declared candidates in 1960 and was the country's first priest to be elected to a state Legislature, according to news accounts at the time. He served one two-year term.
Described in a 1961 news article as "bright-eyed" and "fast-talking," Llorente said in an interview that he had wanted to be a missionary in a foreign land and decided to pick out the hardest location in the world -- Alaska. He wrote extensively about Alaska in Spanish, publishing several books. He left Alaska in 1975 and died in 1989.
Jack Doe 1 was raised in Sheldon Point and regularly attended St. Peter's Church, serving as an altar boy, the lawsuit says. On four occasions, Llorente invited Doe and other boys to his home after catechism. Llorente performed oral sex on Jack Doe and the other boys, the lawsuit says, and gave Doe hard candy, a favorite treat.
Llorente transferred to another village in 1963, and Nawn, who was resident pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Holy Cross, was assigned to Sheldon Point for several weeks. Nawn molested Doe when he was 13 or 14, the lawsuit says.
Nawn invited the boy to the rectory to spend the night with him several times, the lawsuit says. Each time, the priest "sexually abused, harassed, humiliated and assaulted Jack Doe 1," and once attempted to rape him, the suit says.
The experiences have caused Jack Doe 1 severe emotional distress and led him to lose faith in God and the Catholic Church, the lawsuit contends.
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